Award-winning adult author Benjamin Markovits delivers a poignant coming-of-age middle grade story that will give comfort to anyone feeling like a small fish in a Texas-size sea. Perfect for fans of Kevin Henkes, Rebecca Stead, and Kate DiCamillo.
Twelve-year-old Ben is a shy, quiet kid. His life isn’t perfect, but he feels at home in his New York City apartment. Then his dad takes a job in London, and everything changes.
His parents separate, and Ben’s mom moves them back to her hometown of Austin, Texas. Ben’s simple life is suddenly complicated. He misses his apartment, his best friend, Jake, and his dad.
Then he meets Mabley, who becomes a bright spot to Ben’s day. But when his mom starts working at his new school and making friends with his teacher, Ben finds himself at the center of all the problems the adults around him can’t resolve—and even some of his own. That includes joining the school’s basketball team, where Mabley’s best friend is the star player.
After being pushed around, looking for his place, Ben will have to learn how to stand his ground.
I really enjoyed this coming of age story, mostly because it can be so relatable to its target audience. Things can change so rapidly and while we all comment on how resilient children are, sometimes we forget that it can be harder on them than assumed.
Not to mention, Ben himself is a great protagonist. He is pretty much like any other 12- year old/7th grader and the myriad of feelings he goes through are important for young readers to see and feel as well.
[I do plan on rereading this WITH my daughter, but, I had a sleepless night and read this without her for the first round.]
Though Ben is very relatable, I think I had a hard time swallowing the pill that is his parents, more specifically, his mother. [To be fair, this is because she’s the main parent in the novel more than anything else!] She had no development at all as a character and so her horrible qualities just stayed put. In a sense, it’s good because the reader can get a sense of how the child and parent are not always on the same page, and that’s okay, but, if there’s never resolution, that feels like quite a tear in the bond.
Ben’s relationships with people really don’t flourish or grow in any manner, which is a tough read in a way, I think, for children, because you don’t really get that feeling of hope or a silver lining. Luckily I would say his relationship with Sam the groundskeeper was a good and healthy child-adult bond, united by/through basketball and really made the most impact on me while reading though I did adore the growth between Ben and his grandmother as well.
The lack of resolution with all the tension in the book was a disappointment, but, Ben’s journey through basketball and the hardships of moving and adjusting, these were highlights.
I would say this is a good read, and important so children know it’s okay to be depressed/quiet/upset in the face of change, that you don’t always need to smile and be happy. Not to mention Ben finds his way, making a friend and learning a game that helps him feel more at home with his situation.
3.5 cups of coffee from me, thank you so much to Harper360 UK for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.